tradition

Halloween : Origins and Traditions

Halloween marks the end of the harvest season and beginning of the darker half of the year, but its original nature is far more sacrificial and superstitious and also multicultural! Although many of the traditions that we now celebrate come from ancient Ireland, there are several cultures that have contributed to what is now celebrated as Halloween.

Celtic – Samhain Festivities

Halloween as we know it today mostly comes from a Celtic tradition and known as Samhain; a three day festival called ‘the feast of the dead’ where they would celebrate the harvest, build massive bonfires, dress up in costumes, feast, drink, and participate in divination and fortune telling.

Samhain, also known as the origin of Halloween, was a powerful and special demon of Hell and was one of the 66 Seals. He could only rise when summoned by two powerful witches through three blood sacrifices over three days, with the last sacrifice day on the final harvest, Halloween.

There are many rituals associated with Samhain today. These include dancing, feasting, taking walks, and building altars to honor ancestors. There are many parts to the altars Wiccans build. To symbolize the end of the harvest, they include apples, pumpkins, and several other fall crops. Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise at the time of Samhain, so this was a very important festival for the ancient inhabitants of Ireland.

Mexican – Dia De Los Muertos

This holiday actually arrives the couple of days after the traditional Samhain on November 1st and 2nd. The tradition is far more joyful and colorful than the Western Christian counterpart and focuses on humor and celebrations of the departed rather than mourning.

Traditions connected with the holiday include honoring the deceased using calaveras and aztec marigold flowers known as cempazúchitl, building home altars called ofrendas with the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these items as gifts for the deceased.

According to colonial period records, the Aztec empire was formed in A.D. 1427, only about a century before the arrival of Spanish . But the celebration that Mexicans now call Día de los Muertos almost certainly existed many centuries earlier, perhaps originating with the Toltec people of central Mexico. So the Toltec people may have been the first to celebrate this wonderful holiday. Mictecacihuatl is the “lady of the dead” and is said to watch over the bones of the dead and swallow the stars during the day.

Mictecacihuatl

The goddess of the underworld and the dead is often depicted with flayed skin and a gaping, skeletal jaw – was linked to both death and resurrection. According to one myth, Mictecacihuatl and her husband collected bones so that they might be returned to the land of the living and restored by the gods. 

The Aztecs appeased these fearsome underworld gods by burying their dead with food and precious objects. 

Archaeologists and historians know relatively little about the details of the month-long celebration of Mictecacihuatl, but say it likely involved burning incense, song and dance, and blood sacrifice – customary practices in many Aztec rituals.

Western Christian (Roman) – Halloween

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, or All Saints Evening is a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the departed. One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which are believed to have pagan roots;[12][13][14][15] some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Church.[16] Celebrated in Ireland and Scotland for centuries, Irish and Scottish migrants brought Halloween customs to North America in the 19th century, which is where most scholars believe the tradition evolved.

For some people, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, though many Christians have historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day.

These three days are collectively called Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for recently-departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven.

The Allhallowtide custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls,[61] has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.[62] The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century[63] and was found in parts of England, Wales, Flanders, Bavaria and Austria.[64] Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. This was called “souling”.

By 800, there is evidence that churches in Ireland[54] and Northumbria were holding a feast commemorating all saints on 1 November.

Conclusions of the Origins of Halloween

It is very likely that the traditions of Samhain and Halloween merged organically and was again reinforced when the Aztec and Central American tradition of Dia De Los Muertos was discovered and integrated into modern society. However, one cannot argue that these three days seem to be a very important time for humanity to mourn the passing of the deceased, in their own respective ways. It is fascinating that these cultures developed somewhat similar traditions. To learn more, check out my references!

Thanks for reading.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/samhain.shtml
  5. https://dayofthedead.holiday/history/
  6. https://theconversation.com/day-of-the-dead-from-aztec-goddess-worship-to-modern-mexican-celebration-124962
  7. https://www.halloweenexpress.com/samhain-and-the-connection-to-halloween/
  8. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain

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jesus&buddha

Idealization in the Psyche

A core function of the human mind is dreaming, or imagining events that haven’t actually taken place. This can occur while sleeping, while bored during the day, while exercising, pretty much any time when your attention is free, this is possible for the mind. If you are intensely focused on something, for instance your breath, then the mind cannot create these abstractions or false realities. This is part of the Maya that Buddhists and Hindus believe is the illusion of this world.

I’ve heard a lot about spirituality in the last 3 months; I’ve heard that the Buddhas enlightenment meditation was about 4 hours long, I’ve learned that the mind will ceaselessly process events for seemingly no reason, I’ve learned that Buddhism is absolutely a religion, and I have come to the conclusion that the Western and Eastern spiritual religions are two sides of the same coin; the quest for power.

The Buddha and Jesus Christ are treated very similarly in their respective religions of Buddhism and Christianity. Each is somewhat of a key holder to salvation from the world; the Buddha through enlightenment, and Jesus through heaven. Being educated by Jesuit priests has its advantages; I believe it is a requirement to have a PHD in both Theology and Philosophy. Eight years at Jesuit schools has taught me a lot about how to understand and interpret mythology, which religion can effectively be compartmentalized under.

Proper understanding of any literature requires analysis of three major factors : historical events, cultural rituals, and most importantly language. It is impossible to understand what writers were attempting to say in ancient times without understanding their lifestyle, educational background, and historical circumstances. These three things cross over into each other (ie language is a cultural phenomenon and history consists of many important rituals and customs), so having a decent understanding of all three circumstances is important to understand the meaning of what is being said.

If we look at most modern-day christianity, a lot of this contextual information is forgotten, therefore disregarded which causes us to completely lose the meaning of the original text. You need this contextual information to understand what the author is trying to express.

A lot of people don’t understand the bible but quote it regularly; I hesitate to say most, but I don’t think I would be wrong. It is an ancient book written for ancient times and most of it was passed orally before it was ever written, including all four books about Jesus’ life. Even with all of the available knowledge regarding historical, cultural, and linguistic circumstances, we still have a very small picture into the life of someone like Jesus. So we idealize about the individual person in nearly every way, because we allow our brains to construct “the perfect” human. This is essentially what the ideal of Jesus epitomizes in Christianity, an individual that sacrifices everything for his community, even though he receives no recognition for it.

The buddha is very similar to eastern traditions. A lot of the knowledge passed from the Buddha was also passed down orally; but instead of the 70-100 years gap before Jesus’ teachings were written, the Buddha’s teaching were first written about 400 years after he died. This leaves a rather large margin for misinterpretation in the writings of both holy books. He was also a “perfected” human, though his path was different he achieved enlightenment and unison with the divine.

Most scholars accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order and that he was a younger contemporary of Mahavira (the Jain teacher). But very few are hesitant to say much more than this, because of the convoluted theologically influences historical events. The same is true with Jesus, most scholars accept that he lived, died, and founded an order in the process. But scholars of both traditions believe that the traditional texts are not at all historically reliable.

Both the Buddha and Jesus led tremendous cultural revolutions that were anti-establishment; Jesus against rabbis and Jewish pharisees, and the Buddha against Hindu ascetics and Brahmins that constructed the caste system. Both taught about freedom that can’t be obtained externally and both were very misunderstood then, and now. And both were lost to time, never to be truly understood because of lack of reliable information. This has created a complete idealization of both figures, so much so that individuals consider them to be the gateways to the divine.

Why am I writing about this? To exemplify a constructive process of the mind, called idealization. We do this with people we look up to, idolizing and making up idealistic personalities for them. Modern music, movies, acting, etc creates plenty of this. It is part of how we dream, we look up to the individuals we think of as the most successful, or the highest quality. Then we try to be more like them to improve our functioning within society.

We need to step away from these ideals and understood the people around us as humans, rather than idealizing about your favorite artist, a model whose body is unforgettable when photo shopped. Jesus and the Buddha were both humans. There really isn’t any evidence to show otherwise, so that is my position that I am sticking to, because instead of creating an impossible ideal to strive towards, now you have a concrete human that you can measure your own progress against.

Being anti-establishment is important; it’s what allows the establishment to grow and evolve to better fit the needs of the unfortunate underprivileged. Both leaders were completely anti-establishment, in my opinion. They were leading revolutions. Remember that the next time you go to church, or a temple. Jesus literally taught against established religion. I don’t remember Jesus ever going to church, nor the buddha building a temple where he wanted to meditate. The Buddha was enlightened under a tree! And both were focused on being and existence and you can tell because they didn’t write anything about themselves! They were busy teaching people how to stop thinking about how virtue can make you happy. So focus on being happy now, like these awesome dudes!

 

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